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Labor Shortage Update: Restaurants Limit Delivery, Online Sales to Focus on Dine-In

The labor shortage continues to take a toll on restaurants across the U.S., just as the holiday season gets underway.

For example, a California Boston Market shut on Thanksgiving after staff did not show up, leaving customers unable to collect pre-ordered meals. “No employees showing up today… We are unable to fulfill the orders,” a sign at the restaurant read, as reported by Business Insider (Nov. 26).

Here’s a closer look at the implications of the labor shortage for restaurants as well as signs of hope in recent employment data.


Some restaurant companies are shutting down delivery and online sales for periods to focus on dine-in customers, reported The Wall Street Journal (Nov. 28). Darden Restaurants, Cheesecake Factory, Dine Brands Global, and First Watch Restaurant Group are among the operations juggling delivery and online orders as locations struggle with staffing.

Darden, for example, is reducing business at its restaurants on weekends, when brands can only take about four to-go orders every 15 minutes, CEO Gene Lee told investors. There are a lot more orders than that,” Lee said. “We know we have excess demand.”

The slowdowns aren’t going unnoticed by customers. Fifteen percent of diners said delivery wasn’t available from full-service restaurants at peak times in recent months, according to a recent poll by consumer-research firm Lisa W. Miller & Associates LLC.


On the bright side, U.S. employers added 534,000 new jobs in November, with franchise employment up 35,300, according to ADP. Among franchises, restaurants added 21,700 jobs while food retailers shed 900 jobs.

Black Box Workforce Intelligence also found that more teenagers were hired by restaurants in 2021. Teenagers have commonly made up a sizeable portion of limited-service restaurant employment. In 2019, 17% of all hourly, non-management employees were 18 years old or younger. By the end of Q3 2021, the percentage grew to 24%.

A similar shift was observed in the full-service segment. The percentage of hourly, non-management employees 18 years old or younger was 4.6% in 2019. In Q3 of 2021 the percentage increased to 7.2% year to date.

Meanwhile, the 25- to 34-year-old age group had the biggest reduction in its share of both limited-service and full-service employees.